Dean Norris is a very busy man, and he never lets us down with his choice of roles whether they're big or small.
Uncle Daddy on TNT's Claws has a huge presence and what we've seen so far of Norris has been nothing compared to what's to come. Norris set aside some time to chat with us about Uncle Daddy and his gregarious nature and how much fun it is being a part of the ensemble.
Put a smile on your face while reading the interview because we laughed the whole time, and please note there are some very mild spoilers for Claws Season 1 Episode 2 if you prefer not to get his take beforehand. Otherwise, dig into a slightly edited (for content) version of the conversation with Norris below.
You've been successful in both film and television for over 30 years. How do you do it?
Dean Norris: The acting police haven't caught up yet, thank God. It's been fun, obviously. I'm somehow able to keep finding roles that work for me.
Not everybody can do both TV and film successfully. It's pretty amazing that you keep your feet on both sides. It's pretty impressive.
Yeah, thanks. I gotta say, though, when TV got better, whenever you want to call that, somewhere around NYPD Blue, The Wire, Sopranos and on, it was easier to do both, you know?
There was a time when I first got here, and TV was kind of flat if you were. You know, kind of the Walker, Texas Ranger thing. Even though I worked for a little bit during that time, once TV became more like film, it became a little easier to do both together.
I admit I watched Under the Dome more for its comedic value and because you made every scene worthwhile, but now you're on another summer show that's supposed to be funny!
[laughs] CBS was a really great place to work, but yeah. This series now has a lot of bigness and craziness and weird stuff going on, and it's all intentional.
What drew you to Claws? What an amazing cast.
That was part of the draw. Niecy Nash was certainly, for me, a big, big draw. I hate to use the word underrated because she's not been underrated for me, but it seems like she's going to have a much higher profile, and she should because she's great.
When they told me she was the lead, I was like, 'Great!' Because I really wanted to work with her, and I was like, wow, that's a big thing. And then I went and talked with the producers and they were just so excited and passionate about what they were going to try to do and that was it.
At first, it was hard for me to understand what, exactly, it was, and I think for them, too. You know, there's some kind of juggling in terms of finding the right tone, and I think frankly, by the time we get into the second and third episode, it takes off and kicks butt. It really manages that woman-power manicurist hanging out thing with the criminal element really well and you start to see it.
But I think the black comedy in the third episode is fantastic. I don't know if you've seen it yet, but it's great.
I didn't because I had problems getting it to play, but I wanted to because once you see the second episode, you want to see the third!
Ahh, I see. That funeral, that funeral is when I really say, that's what this show is about. You know, we had Ave Maria playing while strippers were dancing on stripper poles, and then the preacher quoted from the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger which is a real thing, by the way. That's a real thing.
And I was like, 'Oh my God. I can't believe I'm in this!'
And after the funeral, they had fondue that was made of this ridiculous cheese. It was like what a really poor guy who made a lot of money and is a flamboyant bisexual man might see as a classy place in Florida. [laughs] In Florida!
I loved the tantrum. Oh my God, that was so fun.
Yeah! That was fun. And Dale Dickey as my wife? What a great choice. They just made some really great casting choices. And when they put it all together and said this is the funeral, I said, 'Great. I wasn't sure.' [laughs] Sometimes I laughed at the funeral, and sometimes I felt that he lost his son, and he's sad, and that's not a fake thing for him, you know? But the way they express it?
The reason I love these guys is nobody apologizes for who they are, you know what I'm saying? I mean, they're all kind of out there, especially Uncle Daddy, and he doesn't apologize one iota. He's not afraid to cry; he's not afraid to be angry; he's not afraid to be attracted to young boys; he's not afraid to be attracted to his wife; it's all the same for him, you know? It's just what moment it is in the day.
I told someone I was talking to you, and he said to ask you if Uncle Daddy's relationship with Roller was platonic. [Norris laughs aloud] And I said, well, that was his son.
That was absolutely platonic! [laughing aloud]
The guy said, 'What?!' Apparently, we missed something in the first episode.
[Still laughing] That didn't read, yeah! He loves him as his son, yeah. Actually, Roller is the son of his brother, and his brother died, which we'll find out more about later. He then adopted both of the boys.
That's exactly what I wanted to know. Why Uncle Daddy? Thank you.
Yeah, it's mentioned later, but it's not really highlighted. You find out more when we talk about it later in the series. He basically raised them as his own, but he's their uncle, so they're platonic. The only non-platonic is the other strange man with the virtual reality thing in the pilot.
That was an, um, exciting scene. How many different ways did you play all of that fun stuff from the pilot?
We did quite a few, you know? We did quite a few. And I think we settled on he's excited for New Year's, and he's well coked out at that point.
Your pinky! Your own claw. Did you keep that on during production or did you put it on each and every day?
Yes, my own claw. I put it on each and every day. But, I must say, what I've asked them to do because I get a different claw every episode, is to keep them for me so I can collect them all and put them in a little shadowbox.
Have you thought of any ways you can use that in your everyday life? Other than, well, snorting coke?
In my real life? No. I think that's about all I could use it for. And to indicate flamboyance of some sort. And to be consistent with the show, of course. Later on, he has a gator. I have a gator one. I nailed it to gator skin. Yeah. I'm very excited.
I understand there's a scene coming up with a gator.
There's some gator stuff coming up, yeah.
You're going to earn that pinky.
There's some gator stuff for sure. There's some gator wrestling, and then let's just say that the Dixie Mafia uses gators to dispose of people, sort of like the old time mafia used to feed 'em to the sharks or the pigs. Dixie Mafia uses the gators.
You mentioned how much you enjoy Niecy Nash, and we all do, do Uncle Daddy and Desna get to have some scenes together?
We do. That's just about the only person, other than the few with Karrueche [Tran] (Virginia) early on, Niecy is the only person I interact with of the females. I hope that changes at some point in the future because I can't wait to work with Carrie Preston and Judy Reyes. I love them both. And Jenn Lyon.
I do a little bit with Jenn because she is my other son, Bryce's, wife, so we do have some interaction with her. But Desna's mainly the woman I have scenes with of the women in the show.
Are some of them comical? Because while I've only seen two episodes, they're more of the dramatic scenes.
You know, oddly enough, in my scenes with her, they tend to me more dramatic because they're pushing the story of the crime elements. Other scenes I have are comical in some really black and strange places.
We're going to have to work on that for Season 2.
Absolutely. Because I'd love to have some. And I think they will. I think they understand that that's a fun combination, myself and Niecy getting it on in some way, in some sort of comic caper in Season 2. IF we get a Season 2, which I think should be coming around the corner.
Well, we always think positively, right?
You brought up your daughter-in-law. Why is she working in the manicure shop when Uncle Daddy has all that money? Is he not takin' care of the kids?
Well, we kind of glossed over it a little bit in the pilot, but he was much fonder of Roller. Roller was his kind of guy. Bryce is not his kind of guy because Bryce does not drink or snort coke. [chuckles]
Is Bryce going to step up or what?
Oh yeah. That's Bryce's storyline. That's the thing that's coming up. Now that Roller's gone, Uncle Daddy's like, you know... And that's part of the conflict with Bryce's wife. Because Bryce is trying to stay on the straight and narrow, and Uncle Daddy is like, 'No, you're coming to my side, you're coming to the dark side.'
And he slowly convinces him to come over and take over the business and all that stuff. You're going to love Kevin Rankin in that because he goes from being clean and sober to not so much, and Uncle Daddy loves him for it. Which is strange, but that's the only way he can relate to this kids.
That's why he loved Roller, and when Roller died, he's like, alright. Now I gotta get this guy. I gotta get him to run the business and be part of my life, and that's part of it. That's an ongoing thing, so Jen really doesn't appreciate Uncle Daddy, because she sees me as corrupting her husband.
Maybe if she gets some more of that money, she'll get on board.
Well. Gah. Why don't you write this show? Because that's one of the ways he's going to try to get her on his side later on.
I guess she's not keen on money?
Well, she's more keen when she sees the money I've got to give her. [laughs]
Oh! There we go!
Yeah. Uncle Daddy's not afraid of buying affection.
Good on Uncle Daddy!
Yeah, Uncle Daddy uses what he's got, and he's got money. So that's what he uses to buy her affection later on.
So, the funeral episode, I think, is great, and you said the third really brings out some of the dark comedy. What's another episode we should keep and eye out for?
The third starts with a great story from Karrueche Tran, who has just stepped it up big time with all these other great actresses she works with, and it's just this crazy story. She starts making stuff up. They're like, 'Don't say it because Uncle Daddy's going to figure it out,' and so they're scrambling to kind of cover up all of these things that she said. And Uncle Daddy is trying to prove her wrong and find out who killed the boy and all of this stuff. It's quite a bit of a comic caper.
There's one really toward the end we filmed. It's with Uncle Daddy's bigger boss in the Dixie Mafia, and Uncle Daddy is really scared of him, and he comes into play at one point, and they have a really fun, fun scene. It's played by a known actor that I don't know that I can say, but he comes in as a guest star, and we have a really funny scene.
He's great. He's the big head, and you think he's going to be really scary. And he is scary, but he's a tie-dye kind of guy and Namaste. And Uncle Daddy can't figure out what the hell this guy is, but he's scary, and it makes for a really funny scene.
What else is coming up for you?
Death Wish which just got a Thanksgiving release, which I'm really excited about. Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio and myself. It's really funny, Eli Roth directed it and it was really fun to do.
The Book of Henry, which is the film festival I'm at in LA to promote right now.
I also did a movie with John Hamm and Rosamund Pike that does not have a release date yet, and I'm really looking forward to that. It takes place in the 1980s in Beruit. It's a real serious film. There's no comedy in that one. So I've got those three films coming out.
Is Death Wish a little different than the original?
A little different but based on the same concept, yeah.
With the cast, you guys all seem to have a little more snark than Charles Bronson did.
Yeah, it's a little snarkier, and Eli Roth is a pretty hip dude. He's got his hipness thrown into the mix. And we're really excited because MGM loved it and gave it a good release date.
Are you wearing a uniform in the Beruit movie?
No, I'm not, but I am wearing a hairpiece. How about that?
Oh, my. That's funny.
Yeah, it is. Remember those guys from Watergate, like the 70s though the 80s? That kind of look? They didn't ask for it; I asked for it. I wanted that look. Like when you've got the comb-over going on, you know? I don't know when it's coming out, but it's going to be an intense movie.
Be sure to tune into Claws Sunday nights on TNT at 10/9c. If you missed the premiere, you can watch Claws online to get on board and see what Norris' latest project is all about. Don't miss it!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.